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Millions in Funding for Water Research Networks

13 August 2015

Ministry of Education and Research awards four million euros to Heidelberg projects

Two water research networks with participating scientists from the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE) of Heidelberg University will receive millions in funding from the state of Baden-Württemberg. The inter- and transdisciplinary consortia, which will assess the risks of chemicals in the aquatic environment and study drought, are among three research networks selected by an international panel of experts under the auspices of the Baden-Württemberg Water Research programme. The networks, which closely link the natural and engineering sciences with the social sciences and humanities, will each receive two million euros in funding over the next five years.

“We are bundling the state’s existing competencies in water research to strengthen cross-disciplinary scientific cooperation on issues related to one of humanity’s most critical resources”, explains Minister Theresia Bauer. Only by tightly linking the various scientific fields for a single, systematic approach will “it be possible to develop modified technologies and management strategies and effectively fold them into a dynamic society”.

Heidelberg University will assume consortium leadership of the  Eff-Net (Effect Network in Water Research) network, which is investigating interdependencies for the risk assessment of chemicals in aquatic ecosystems.  Prof. Dr. Thomas Braunbeck, head of the Aquatic Ecology and Toxicology working group at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS), and political scientist Prof. Dr. Jale Tosun are participants. The Karlsruhe Institute for Technology and the University of Tübingen are also members of the network. By combining basic research in the natural sciences with methods from the social sciences, the network aims to reduce the increasing amounts of certain micropollutants such as food additives and pharmaceuticals from finding their way into aquatic ecosystems. The researchers are developing an analytical network for biological risk assessment that supports identifying and quantifying contaminants and their conversion products in environmental waters. They will also investigate the impact of substances on living organisms in the aquatic ecosystem. Using their findings as a basis, the researchers intend to develop concepts for managing consumer behaviour and environmental law.

The universities of Heidelberg, Freiburg and Tübingen are all members of the DRleR network (Drought impacts, processes and resilience: making the invisible visible). Heidelberg is represented by hydrologist Prof. Dr. Lucas Menzel and jurist Prof. Dr. Ute Mager. The network aims to groom politics and society for the increasing periods of drought throughout Europe in the future. Using different simulations based on existing and newly generated data, the scientists will analyse the interaction of climate, environment, land and water use, as well as society and political management structures in periods of drought. They are especially interested in studying the hidden impacts of drought, on water quality and ecosystems, for example. A platform for documenting the experiments will serve as a central information hub for the actors from science, politics and society. The researchers also want to put forward recommendations for better risk management during drought periods.


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